Friday, September 6, 2013

Already seeing STAARS!

Oh the STAAR test!!

If you teach a STAAR or state assessed grade you know how stressful it can be. You don't want to assess them to death but you want to make sure that they are mastering the skills and know their testing strategies -- especially if you teach 3rd grade, which is the first year these babies are taking the State test and are expected to bubble in their own answer key.........
and it takes a LOT of practice to master the difficult skill of bubbling!! :)

 I can't tell you how many times I have done really fun, engaging, hands on activities thinking they have it down!! -- BUT then I assessed them and they bombed it when they had to do it paper/pencil style. 

It is important that the students see it "paper/pencil" style because that is what the STAAR test is... but it is also important to have interactive lessons that the kids can get their hands on and take and do. I am BIG on project based learning and giving them some control over their own learning and how they learn it! 

Over the summer I went to a training where the speaker shared one good idea some ideas - an idea that seems like it could really help bridge hands on learning to pencil/paper assessing. 

She said that before you teach a new topic to post a question, the type of question the kids would see on the STAAR test (with the answers covered) and tell them:

"We are learning about this because you will be expected to answer a question like this..."

So, I created this Guiding Question poster that I will use to display questions in STAAR format for the kids to ponder during our lesson/activity. As you can see, I am introducing my STAAR strategies through this, which is really just an added bonus!! Afterwards, I put the answer choices up on the Elmo and we discuss what the correct answer is and how we can use what we learned during the lesson to answer the question. 

SO far it has been going really well and it provide my kids with some prior knowledge of the strategies when we did our first practice passage today! 

Two years ago when STAAR was first given, our reading specialist and I sat down, knowing that the STAAR test would be more rigorous, with more inferencing and questions that involve the students needing to "think" instead of just "remembering" we came up with the idea of using COVER UP CARDS! 
I absolutely LOVE them. The kids read the passage and when they get to the questions they use their cover-up cards to cover up the answer choices. This give the students time to really think about the question without being distracted or tempted to just choose an answer without really reading all the choices. I expect my students to write their "mental answer" above the question before they even look at the answer choices. This is useful because there usually are 2 choices that could be the answer or are "tricky ones" and it helps keep them focused on what they originally thought, keeping them from second guessing.  

Here is an example from one of my student's work from today.
You can see they highlighted their key words and did their mental answering! :)

Happy Teaching Friends!! 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Classroom Incentives

This year I am trying something different with my incentives and I am really excited about it!

Using Mel B.'s amazing coupons found HERE!!

First let me tell you the coupons are AMAZING!! I am using most of them as individual prizes the kids can cash their whammies in for along with the same old trustee prizes I just can't let go of like treasure box, special pencils, and sit where ever you want for a day. I separated the coupons into two tubs because to me some seemed more special than others like the "Get out Jail" one where the kids can take their recess back, so naturally those cost more whammies!!

The other coupons I couldn't really use individually like extra recess time, while some seemed more appropriate for whole class like dance party and eat outdoors (I just had this visual of just one kid cashing in their dance party coupon and dancing away while the rest of us just keep working... HAHA!) Anyways- the coupons that would work better whole class for me went down on this poster board and in the lamination machine. 

Then came the fun part!! I had told my students during the first week that for their whole class incentive they would earn marbles for compliments they receive in the hallways or when they are all on task. After they get so many marbles (in our case fill the little vase up) they will get to scratch off a square to reveal a certain prize! After the first week one of my classes has already filled half their vase up so I decided I better actually make this poster ASAP instead of just talking about it!! Terrible, I know!! 

So, using a "recipe" I had seen made my own scratch off paint using soap and paint. I carefully painted my squares (I didn't have any painter's tape on hand like her post so wisely recommends...) along with a little spot of yellow off to the side to test it after it dries, plugged in the fan and crossed my fingers it works! 

It did! PERFECTLY!! My kids are going to be SOO excited come tomorrow morning when they see it hanging in it new home all ready to be scratched off!! 

A part of me thinks since I laminated it any paint would of scratched off, but the soap and paint mixed helps it come off super duper easy!! 

NO Time for all that?? That is ok!
Order these scratch off stickers instead!! You can't beat 7.50!!

Using those Scratch Off stickers works just as well!!!
Read about this incentive HERE!!
Happy teaching friends!! 

First Week FUN!

I know.. I haven't blogged in what feels like FOREVER - but as all you teachers know the first few weeks leading up to the big FIRST WEEK and the first week is madness.

I don't know about you, but the first week is crazy full of expectations and do's and don't's and rushing around trying to remember when lunch is and if I am pronouncing their names correctly and if I could possibly get away with calling them "sweetie" all year long.

One thing that I have done the past few years is this twist on the popular "First Day of First Grade" pin -- the one we have all come to see and then are overcome with jealously that we don't teach first grade and "The First Day of Third Grade" or whatever grade that ISN'T first grade just doesn't sound as adorable...

I love my "3rd Day in 3rd grade" frame (which could totally be adapted to all the grade levels) and the parents do to since I make cards for them thanking them for sharing their child with me and what a great year we are going to have. I think this year I may take a 3rd day to last day of 3rd grade picture and send them both home together!

Aren't they

(I also love my scuba diver door... 
It turned out way better than I had originally anticipated!!)

Happy teaching Friends!!